Government braces for opposition fury on PIA

Seven bills expected to be presented during joint session of parliament

Obaid Abbasi/maryam Usman March 21, 2016


The upper and lower houses of parliament will convene today (Monday) for a joint session to deliberate on as many as seven key pieces of legislation, including the controversial bill on the national airlines.

Other important bills on the agenda include the Gas Theft Control and Recovery Bill, 2014; the Emigration (Amendment) Bill, 2014; Civil Servants (amendment) Bill, 2014; Anti-Rape Laws (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill, 2015; and the Privatisation Commission (second amendment) bill, 2015.

Govt took dictation on PIA from outside, says Shah

The controversial Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (Conversion) Bill, 2016, proposes turning PIA into a public limited company – thus paving the way for its privatisation. However, the bill has faced immense opposition in the past and had has already been turned down by the Senate.

Lawmaker Maryam Aurangzeb of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said it is important for the joint session to endorse the bill. She defended the government move, calling it the ruling party’s constitutional right.

Federal Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said the bill has been politicised. “Technically, it is a sound bill – this what you need to be able to attract investors into the company.”

But the government can expect little support over the bill.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) lawmaker Tahir Hussain Mashhadi stated that while his party does not oppose privatisation, he has concerns over the fate of PIA workers.

“Interest of the workers has to be safeguarded. We will not tolerate a single worker being laid off,” Mashhadi said.

He added that his party would make sure the interests of workers are safeguarded. “PIA is the property of Pakistan, it cannot be sold at throw-away prices,” he said, adding that corporate investment should be allowed but complete ownership should not be offered. He also opposed the idea of creating a parallel airline, noting that the money required would be better served if it was invested in PIA.

Govt defends its policy on PIA, petroleum prices

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawmaker Farhatullah Babar recalled that the PIA bill had been rejected twice – once when it came as an ordinance and again when it was introduced in the Senate and it would be highly inappropriate if the government tries to push the bill through the joint session.

“It would mean the government using its Punjab-based majority in both houses of parliament to bulldoze the will of the house of federation,” he said, affirming that the PPP would oppose it today.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s Arif Alvi said the government was closely guarding its plan regarding the bill. “The PIA bill will be laid but not be voted upon.”

JUI-F may surprise govt

The government’s coalition partner Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) could spring a surprise on Monday by opposing the controversial PIA bill in the joint session of parliament.

The party is due to meet on Monday morning before the joint session to deliberate on what position it may adopt for the bill. “We have serious reservations as the party was not taken on board on every issue despite the fact that we are a coalition partner of the government,” complained JUI-F Senator Hafiz Hamdullah.

I am the daughter of a man who served in PIA for 37 years

The JUI-F, which has 18 seats in parliament, says it has not been taken on board over issues such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and 21 constitutional amendments, among other issues.

Hamdullah argued that there was no reason to privatise the national flag carrier as it can be improved without privatisation. Pointing towards Pakistan Railways, he added that if that organisation can be improved without privatising, why was the government hesitant to improve PIA?

Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st,  2016.


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